Mark Amaza: Military Retirements and Nigerian Sentiments

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A few weeks ago, not long before Christmas, the Nigerian Army announced the retirement of 51 senior officers, from the rank of Colonel upwards. For a while, the details of those retired and why were shrouded in secrecy. Many even dismissed the news of the retirements as mere rumors.

 

However, statements from the Army Headquarters confirmed the retirements, and gave the reasons for the action as based on the policy of the army to retire certain ranks at certain ages.

 

Expectedly, these retirements generated a lot of discourse within the Nigerian media and informal circles. As to everything in this country, people suspected there were factors playing behind the scenes, and even spun conspiracy theories to support their views.

 

One sad thing I noted was how almost every part of this country claimed that it was mostly their ‘sons’ that were retired and there’s a deliberate scheme to disenfranchise and marginalize them. Since the Chief of Army Staff is from the South-East and the President is from the South-South, all fingers are pointing at a collusion between those two regions to rid the army of the others, and install themselves as the dominant powers in the army.

 

It is a very saddening situation that there’s little governments can do in Nigeria without Nigerians interpreting it from a sentimental viewpoint. It has become commonplace for us to play victims once it wasn’t our own that was in charge or made the decision. There are many decision that governments take for the benefit of all, yet it is tarnished with the brush of ethno-religious sentimentalism.

 

This has ended up providing a cover for criminals in government and even outside government to raise dust while trying to get away with their crimes. When the Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido sacked 9 bank chief executives in 2009 for mismanaging the banks and toying with depositors’ money, the outcry was that it was because he’s a northerner and he wants get rid of southerners running banks. This was despite the preponderance of evidence that these banks were indeed, mismanaged and funds embezzled.

 

So also it was when former Delta State Governor, James Ibori was being tried for massive corruption, he was able to rally up a lot of Deltans who cried themselves hoarse that their son was wrongly accused, and even went as far as to shield him from arrest.

 

I could go on and on with numerous examples, but for lack of space. But the point is that we need to learn to look at issues from a neutral point of view before we come to conclusion.

 

This is not to deny that there are not many actions of people in government which are driven by sentiments directed against certain people. But we should not be too quick to jump to conclusion in the name of defending our ethnicity, religion and place of origin.

 

Let me conclude by recounting a tale of a certain man who had been sacked from a prominent position. The man, a Northerner with a Muslim name, immediately had a prominent Muslim organization leap to his defence, screaming marginalization directed at Northern Muslims. To their dismay, it turned out that the said victim was actually a Christian.

 

Nigeria belongs to all of us. If we really desire Nigeria to grow and reach the height of its greatness, it is about time we shed our primordial thinking and put the country first in all we do.

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